Now hiring

We are recruiting about 9 new positions for Hagar. I made up a list of the jobs, brief descriptions and listed the requirements. I asked applicants to state how they met the requirements, and then posted the advertisements on a few websites here in Kabul.

Within minutes, I started receiving applications. 90% of these applicants have simply fired back a CV, shooting straight from the hip. None of them – repeat – none of them have addressed the requirements. Their cover letters are all addressed to ‘Dear Sir/ Madam’, despite the advertisement requesting that applications be addressed to ‘Phil Sparrow’. Some applicants haven’t even bothered to change the details of their documents from the last job they applied for – so I have applications for positions with WFP, the Afghan Human Rights Commission and so on. Many applicants claim to speak excellent English, but their letters are full of the most basic typos. People have had ‘Gander Training’, have studied ‘Enlish’, they describe themselves as speaking ‘perfection English’. Many begin like this:

To Whom It May Concern

I have recently found out through your job vacancy that your prestigious office is to recruiting new employee for the above mentioned post of so, being equipped and having the qualification needed for the post I apply and have the confidence that I will be able to contribute positively toward the achievement of your organization goal and objectives.”

I think that sentence is from a Jane Austen novel. Or they have lines in them like this:

“I have full command on the relevant subjects. As far as the communication skill is concerned, I can register, interpret and convey my verbal and nonverbal stimulus and response and lead programs well up to the standards and policy of Hagar Afghanistan.”


Eh? Here’s a selection of the best/ worst bits:

Languages:        Read        Write        Speaking    Understand

  • English         flounce     Flounce     Flounce         V. Good        

  • Dari          Excellent    Excellent    Excellent    Excellent

  • Pashto        Excellent    Excellent    Excellennt    Excellent

  • Urdu        Excellent    Excellent    V. Good     V. Good

Dear Mr.Phil Sparow

I have an aim to join your organization and try my best to benefit your organization form

The most useful and high standard skill that I have developed during three non-stop simultaneous years…

I hope I will get the chance start with your organization and build up a new empire composed of experience and dedication.

To Whom It May Concern:

I would likes to apply for the above Position. I can feel myself a component candidate for the above position.


Human rights and gender and word.

Human rights in Afghanistan.

Repot writing.

Loses Rudeness abut woman’s.

Loses the currency without cultures abut the woman.

Participate of the woman’s in the community.


Participate of the woman’s in dally live.

Lose contrariety with woman.

Dues defective effect.


What is ‘Dues defective effect’? Is it a skill I need in an employee, that they lose rudeness about woman’s? Do I want an empire builder? Flounce English? (Sounds dangerous). And what is a ‘component candidate’? Do I need to know that that candidate feels himself?

“I am seeking a professionally rewarded and challenging position in a company that is aggressively expanding in Afghanistan market.”

I think the Taliban is aggressively expanding in Afghanistan. Perhaps he should apply there.

Honestly, it was a depressing afternoon’s reading. Such desperation, such hope, such dreams of a better future were hidden in these applications. I have put all the worst and unusable applications aside, and when I get a moment, I will write back, asking them to spell check (really, it is not so hard these days with Office software), asking them to address letters to the listed person, asking them to address the criteria.

It reminds me of when we were recruiting for a finance manager back in 2000, and got a string of people who claimed they were all trained accountants. I tell no lie, not one of them got all the answers right on a very basic maths test. Not one could balance a ledger. Well, to be fair that was in Taliban times, when all the skilled people were fleeing here as fast as they could push a wheelbarrow full of their bits of things.

The sad thing is that most of these people are probably competent enough. If they were less frenzied in their applications, and took say, 1 hour, to look at the description, address the letter to me, get the name of our organisation right, check out the website, and give me two or three lines on how they meet the requirements, they’d get an interview. What’s with the rush? It is not as though the first application in my inbox gets the job.

I’ll let Mr JT have the last word here:

Dear Sir/Madam,

please find attached, That I am Candida in below positon so I sent my resume for your consideration and I am looking Forward to having an opportunity how I can Contribute with your team.

I dont think we want anyone who has Candida in below position.


8 thoughts on “Now hiring

  1. I think you’re being a bit harsh Phil, Candida is a lovely place, Flouncing English sounds like jolly good fun, we could all do with losing some contrariety with woman and anyone whose been doing anything for three non-stop simultaneous years deserves some credit.
    However, I agree you want to shy away from any empire builders or aggressive market expanders.

    You didn’t mention the remuneration package or range of attractive fringe benefits the job includes! What else can you expect?

    Good to know that you’re hiring though.


  2. Dear Mr. Sparrow:

    I am laughing so hard right now tears are running down my face. It is good to be able to laugh during times such as these. Experiencing emotional contradictions have a way of making us mindful of the tragic situations that exist in the lives of all God’s children. I often glory at the double use of tears.

    Very much appreciating this time of dual emotions with you!

    Love to you and yours,

  3. Ah, it’s good to laugh at, not so good to be laughed at. People probably laughed at me a lot when I first came to Australia and made a lot of mistakes in my English. Just as well there were no blogs back then. Spell check? I do remember that back then I thought that my English was sooo good that I was above any spell check programs.

    You’re trying to apply what is ok and normal in the Western culture (tactics play, selection criteria etc etc) to a country where common people never done résumés before. Give them some credit. Behind one of these résumés may be a very good candidate for one of your position. Her misfortune maybe that she may have paid some jerk to prepare her resume in a “professional” way. There would be a lot of such cowboys around.

    Oh, that sounded very serious.

    Why do they need English if they’re going to work with AF people?

  4. no, you’re right Guen. I feel a bit uncomfortable having a laugh at these CVs. But – some of them are very funny. And I know Afghans laugh at me all the time, with my Dari and Pashto mispronunciations.
    I think my frustration is more that people claim stuff which is often not true – ie, the language skills, the ability to network computers, etc. That’s misrepresentation.
    English? They need it because the successful candidates are off to Cambodia and Italy for training.

  5. Hi Phil,

    Confusing Candida with Candidate is an easy thing to do, spell-check-wise. Both words come from the Latin (I think), meaning ‘white’.

    Candida albicans, the fungal infection no one wants “below” turns the skin white.

    A candidate, in Roman or Greek senatorial elections, painted his face with white paint to show that he was the “candidate”.

    So there’s a common origin.

    Knew that you and your readers would be gripped by that.

    with fond regards,

  6. Pingback: Writing (someone else’s) CV « harry rud

  7. Phil – (very) late to the party, but had a good if guilty laugh.

    The problem for spell checkers is malaproprisms. I got a CV in Helmand where there wasn’t a single misspelled word. The candidate was the beneficiary of UN “demeaning” training, described his marital status as “mired,” and looked forward to working in a “mullet-cultural environment.”

    Hope you and the family are well.

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